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3 poems by Hideko Sueoka

Forest Hiking in Madeira

The wonderful things in life are the things you do, not the things you have. – Reinhold Messner

They say wood-sprites often lurk in a mountain –

we leave behind the saying and track pitched trails

while the sulky sky’s gone. Though no wind, inching

sound there. Around us, only shadow play

of green sways in acres of leaves and twigs.

With slats of light filtering through foliage,

our traffic is legs; our gait is first steady

and fluid, never teetering on the way.

Large ferns are inlaid with hydrangeas

whose pallid calyces reflect with shades

a countenance of light, rain, and air;

magenta to fuchsia, thistle to violet

on a land palette of the undulant field.

As altitude is higher, our footfalls

are stiff and we plod along a path thickset

with dewy weed. To hear quicksilver calls

from afar of a sort of pigeon, finch,

or oriole is peace for us whose heartbeats

are quickened with swollen legs. A short rest

and water near a knotty tree, thinking

of thousands of footprints born, lost, repressed

in a perpetual cycle like tides, like time.

You tat me, then we climb up to the top.

Although sometimes fearful of an ambush

of unseen creatures that are just a riddle

in nature, we shake off a ghostly vision

and do our way through advance between tufts.

First step, second, and the moment comes:

our reach to the summit. Hold the Atlantic,

bougainvillea, bird of paradise, and cumulus

in the firmament. Everything is for us.

Walk through Blue Dawn

No people, no sound. Time stops

in the dim. Overhead, the brindled

sea spreads out without pinpoint glints

and moonlight is faint in the downtown

where over-madeup pavilions and

high-rise constructions with no shadows

lie with a mass of cotton flowing willy-nilly.

The long dismal time turns me

into an early bird to break out

like a prisoner does,

for a moment’s relief

from my own closed island.

Passing over the thin alley,

the dark park appears, waits for me

there, murky firs shake leaves, branches

in cool wind, bear blobby ghosts with shades

before and behind, I walk through them

while the pond reflects the mixture

of aquatic creatures on the water with pale light.

Out of the park, a kettle murmurs

somewhere, streaks of lighting arise,

towards them, a flock of birds flies.

Cicada Hunter

Today no bug-hunting-net and tool was only my right hand

in insects’ summer choir and

through a shady road along flowering dogwoods

my heart got excited step by step

as more closer to the woodland of sawtooth oaks

and farther from town’s noise.

At one moment, the muteness of trees spread. Thirst for hunting.

I looked around, heard long shrilling

echoes of a cicada, maybe, you might sit on the low

branch, I crept up on you.

The aventurine was shaking. What did diamond eyes see?

With bated breath, the first and second

fingers bridged your body. Snap, full stop. I pinched nothingness.

Nothing, poor me. A crow saw me.

I failed and failed, there was a thread of lingering sighs

as if a calico cat targeted

koi in the pond, jab a paw, only splash and wild waves.

A crow laughed on a treetop

calmly moving to trunk to trunk, I followed cries of cicadas,

for them, sweet sap and fine mating

were ecstasies. For me, winning against one ecstasy

in pursuit of a bright wow voice.

It’s loud overhead. I walked under soft sonorants

that whirred or whined or honked or squawked.

A shot at you – my two fingers shaped from V to I.

Halcyon moment, triumphant.

Your chanting was broken, madness beamed between fingers.

I released you, oh, a crow traced you.


Hideko Sueoka is a poet and translator living in Tokyo. Her winning poem of Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013 was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2014. Her debut poetry chapbook was published from Clare Songbirds Publishing House (US) in 2018.


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